To most mermaids, salt has a capital S, but Eadie is not your average siren.
"If being a siren means I’ll eventually have to leave everyone who ever meant anything to me, then I don’t want it."
I’m the youngest of a set of triplets, and I share little in common with my sisters. Larimar and Lazuli don’t seem bothered by the fact that they’re destined to live their semi-immortal lives controlled by their salt cycle. But after it took Mom, I flipped the ocean a set of double-birds. The salt can’t have me. My life is mine. My voice is mine. My fins and legs are both mine—and I prefer the latter.
I try to live as a normal high school senior, but I have my own personal bully who makes my life hell. I have a serious crush on Seth Foster, who doesn't seem to know I exist, and a reputation as a socially awkward science whiz.
When I find a mermaid in salt-flush trapped inside a wreck, she is proof that the salt is a hateful master, with no compassion for those whose lives it ruins, whose memories and identities it erases.
Can the weakest link in the Jackson chain figure out a way to free her when my hard-earned front as a normal teenager starts to unravel.
Or have I picked a fight I cannot win?
Return to the siren realm of A.L. Knorr with Pretty Little Mermaids, which expands the lore established in Born of Water, Mermaid’s Return and The Siren’s Curse, but is set before the events of the latter. Aquamarine is a true YA contemporary fantasy, complete with high school angst, a prom, bullies, a sweet romance, team sports drama and family drama, all intertwined with the author's beloved mermaid mythology.
Release date: November 30, 2023
Publisher: Intellectually Promiscuous Press
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The next day, Henrietta’s espresso machine and I are in the throes of a competition to see which of us produces the most steam. So far, its neck and neck. Anger simmers in my gut as Lazuli and Larimar’s whispered conversation burns in my memory:
What joy can there be in beating everyone when they’re human and you’re half-fish? It’s not exactly a level playing field, is it?
You did the same thing when you were little.
I was just a kid. I quit before anyone noticed anything weird. Eadie is almost seventeen. She shouldn’t need the swim team by now.
She’s at where she’s at, Laz. Let her grow up at her own pace. Besides, it’s good for her confidence.
When Larimar sighed, it sounded so much like Mom it gave me the shivers. It still does, even as I replay it in my mind.
“You okay, Eadie?” Jennifer, my coworker, asks as she pulls cartons of half-and-half and almond milk from the mini fridge under the counter to refill the carafes. “You seem distracted.”
“Yeah, sorry. My sisters sometimes drive me crazy, that’s all.” I scoop grounds into a filter lined basket and slide it into the coffee maker to brew a fresh pot.
“Hey, I’ve got four older brothers. Believe me, I get it.” She tosses the empty cartons in the trash and screws the lids back onto the carafes.
“At least they’re actually older than you.”
“Well, you’ve got me there. You and your sisters are the only triplets I’ve ever met. I hate sharing a bathroom with my brothers. Never mind a birthday.” With a lighthearted laugh she whisks the carafes away, winding her way to the self-service station.
My sisters and I share a lot of things. I don’t mind that. What I mind is their inability to understand that the differences that make us fraternal triplets, visible on the outside, exist on the inside too.
Business at the café picks up and I welcome the distraction. The hiss of steam from the frother, the gurgle of the automatic drip and the whir of the blender. It helps to drown out my sisters’ voices, and by extension, my mother’s too. By my seventh half-caf frozen double-whip mochaccino, I’ve all but forgotten why I was upset at the start of my shift.
Then Seth walks in.
My heart doubles its pace. I’ve never had the nerve to talk to him outside of taking his order at the café. He’s a loner, and projects a friendly but cool please-keep-your-distance kind of vibe. I don’t need to ask him what he wants. Much like his facial features, his preferred drink is etched into my brain: double espresso with a side of steamed milk he can add himself. I think of it as a flat white for coffee lovers with trust issues. I give the requisite opener anyway, smiling.
“Welcome to Henrietta’s. What can I brew for you?”
He surprises me by squinting above my head at the chalkboard full of cartoony drink possibilities instead of asking for his usual.
“Yeah, I’ll try an… umm.” Seth glances over his shoulder as if to gauge the patience of the line behind him. Except there isn’t one. He spears me with a look. “What’s your favorite drink?”
“My fave—favorite… drink?” I stammer, brain misfiring from the shock. Seth Foster wants to know what I like. This is literally the first time he’s ever said anything to me besides “the usual, please.” I’m lucky when I get that much. Half the time Jennifer is working the till and I have to settle for putting bubbles into milk that will shortly go down Seth’s gorgeous throat.
“Yeah, I mean, you work here,” he says. “You know all the best drinks, you’ve probably even invented some.” He leans forward, a smile spreading across his face. “Got anything off-menu that’s good?”
I fight back a laugh. The only secret in Henrietta’s is the fact that I’m a mermaid.
I say the first thing that comes to mind, which is, unfortunately, the truth. I can’t be witty on the fly, like Lazuli.
“I like a cappuccino before noon,” I tell him, “And drip coffee until four. After that I stop or I’m a jitterbug and can’t sleep.”
Cathy’s criticisms about not being able to flirt with, or even smile at guys, echo in my head. I internalize my groan, pack down my embarrassment and pretend I’m not lame. Jitterbug? Seriously? Were you born in the fifties?
“A girl who likes the classics and keeps it simple.” Seth’s smile is beautiful. “I’ll take a plain drip coffee then. Can’t say I’ve had one of those in… maybe ever.”
“Sure thing. I’ll get that right up for you.” I give him his total and wait for him to finish the transaction. Jennifer moves to the till as I slide to the La Pavoni that Henrietta had shipped from Italy.
I’d like to be able to stop staring at Seth, but I can’t. I’m literally incapable. Yes, he’s attractive—smooth dark skin, warm eyes, and the kind of physique earned from hours and hours on a surfboard—but I’m not just physically attracted to him. The first time I ever saw him I liked how he seemed comfortable in his own skin. It surprised me when he didn’t become one of the popular kids, I guess it’s because he keeps to himself. He’s quiet, confident, polite, respectful to teachers, but he doesn’t take crap from anyone either. I saw him stand up to a guy in the hall who had jammed his shoulder into Seth’s on purpose. Why? I have no idea. There’re all kinds of mini wars going on between students all day long. Instead of shoving back, which is what the majority of guys do, Seth just turned, calm and collected, and said, “Say it to my face, troglodyte. Use full sentences. I’ll do my best to wait patiently, but I’m sure you’re impossible to underestimate.” Or something like that. I had to look up what a troglodyte was, and I’m pretty sure the other kid did too. He mumbled something stupid, face red, and slouched away. Seth carried on as though nothing had happened.
Foam erupts from the stainless-steel pitcher, like the baking soda volcano I made for a fourth grade science fair, splattering my shirt, face and hair.
“That’s one way to get him to notice you,” Jennifer murmurs under her breath as she passes behind me. “Also, drip coffee requires no foam.”
Face hot, I grab a towel and dab the milk from my apron. Hand quivering, I pour Seth’s drink and put it on the counter for pick up, hoping that he hasn’t noticed me blundering around like it’s my first day.
“Thanks.” He steps up to the pick-up station, adds a dollop of cream to his drink and stirs, then takes a thoughtful sip. He looks at me with a tilt of his head. “Nice. Very smooth.”
“Glad you like it.” I’m a confusing blend of grateful and disappointed when another customer approaches the counter.
Seth takes one of the swivel stools at the bar seating in the front window. He sips his drink as he liberates the world’s smallest paperback from his back pocket. With Seth safely on the opposite side of the room and his attention elsewhere, my nerves settle. I fall into my usual easy rhythm, making drinks without spilling anything or spraying myself.
I pop up from below the counter where we keep unopened bottles of syrups when the next customer steps up to the counter. “Welcome to Henrietta’s. What can I get you?”
“Hey, surfer girl.” Grant rests his hip against the counter, leans in. “We meet again.”
“Hey, guy from trig.” I plaster on a professional smile and grab a paper cup and my sharpie, poised to scribble his name and order. “What’ll you have?”
“I’ll take a large iced mochaccino with whip, and a date with you next Friday night.” Grant pulls his phone from his pocket and wakes up the screen, looking at me expectantly.
I freeze. Seth’s head lifts, then turns to the side, his ear canted in our direction. Because he heard that, or because he noticed the small elderly lady outside the window walking a huge German Shepherd? My mind is a comet. If he heard another guy asking me out, does that count as street cred? Mark me as dateable? Grant is cool, a local rock star. He’s new, but he’s already popular. If I say yes, does that mean Seth will stop showing interest? Wait. He hasn’t shown any interest. Asking what I like to drink isn’t interest, it’s advice from a professional. He’s never shown interest. So, there’s no upside in saying no, and no downside in saying yes. Right?
“Okay.” I reply, sounding calmer than I feel.
“Okay? Really?” He grins. “Man, that was easier than I thought. You were a little chilly before, I figured you’d shoot me down, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. I’m glad I ventured.” Grant’s gaze flicks from me to his phone; his thumb hovers over the screen. “What’s your number?”
I give it to him on autopilot, still dazed and confused, uncertain that my mile-a-second social value calculations haven’t led me down a path I’ll soon regret. What am I doing? I don’t like this guy. The guy I like is sitting over by the window. I squirm, my stomach tying itself in knots. Why aren’t my sisters the kind I can talk to about this type of thing?
I risk a glance over Grant’s shoulder. Seth has swiveled around, putting his back to the traffic. He’s closed his paperback. He’s noticed us. He knows exactly what’s happening. Does he care? I can’t read his expression at all.
Grant finishes entering my number and looks up with the kind of smile that I’m sure melts hearts all over the state. “Cool. I’ve got you. How’s seven o’clock? We can grab a bite to eat and catch a movie, or maybe you can give me a moonlit surfing lesson.”
“I uh, I umm… sorry, but I just remembered I have a shift on Friday night.” I stammer, in a wishy-washy attempt to cancel the plans I never intended to make in the first place.
Grant is oblivious to my deer-in-the-headlights regret. “No problem. Why don’t we meet at the theater after your shift?”
My insides shrivel. I want to be invisible. Why did I say yes? Cathy has her sights on Grant. The moment I think of her, I break out in a cold sweat. A date with one of her targets is social suicide, provided there’s any life left in my social status to snuff out. While I doubt it’s possible for her to hate me any more than she already does, I have a terrible feeling that I’ll find out she can once word of this date spreads. The fact that I hadn’t meant to say yes, and the fact that am not even interested, are both irrelevant.
Seth slides off his stool, tosses his empty cup in the trash and walks out without a glance in my direction. His departure guts me.
“Here’s your mochaccino.” Jennifer slides Grant’s sickly sweet coffee blend— topped with whipped cream and sprinkles—across the counter.
“Thanks.” He wraps his lips around the straw, maintaining eye contact with me as he takes a long sip and gulp. “See you in class.”
Grant drops a tenner in the tip jar and heads out, turning down the street in the opposite direction from Seth. I sag against the counter and look at Jennifer, who is staring at me in surprise. We’re alone in the café now.
She jabs a thumb in Grant’s direction. “You’re going on a date with that guy?”
I let out an exasperated groan and grab the disinfectant and a roll of paper towels to take my frustration out on the table tops.
She follows me. “He’s cute, but my ultra-sensitive spider senses are telling me that you don’t like him.”
I send her my best duh look. She knows I like Seth.
“So, why’d you say yes then?”
“I don’t know,” I wail, and attack the nearest table top with violent swipes. “Because I’m an idiot. Because he’s the only guy who has ever asked me out, not counting that kid in freshman year who did it on a dare. Because it’ll make me look dateable?”
She makes a look like my last reason has some merit. “It might, or it put you firmly back in the untouchable zone, even though you might have been starting to finally squeak out of it.”
I stop cleaning and straighten, eyes wide. “I was?”
She lifts the napkin dispenser off the next table so I can clean underneath it. “Sure. I can tell when guys are testing the waters for interest. Seth was doing that with you.”
“How do you know that?”
She gives me a look that confirms I am just as hopelessly dense as she always suspected. “Seth comes in here at least once a week, always orders the same thing, but this time he asked you what you like, then he tried it. That was a smoke signal. Then you said yes to a date with the next guy that came along, right in front of him. That was also a smoke signal, one that tells Seth that you’re not interested.”
I groan and sink onto the nearest seat, my elbows propped on the table, my head in my hands. “Oh no. I’ve messed up my smoke signals!”
“So, cancel,” she says, laughing.
Honestly, I don’t know why she’s always laughing at me like she finds me amusing. I’m a mess. I glare at her. Jennifer is a bombshell in her final year at college. She has no trouble getting dates. Not only am I sure that I don’t want to date Grant, I’m also not sure I want to cancel the date, and even if I did, I wouldn’t know how to go about doing that without offending him.
She smirks at my expression, enjoying my agony. “Or don’t. Go on the date, have a good time, see how you feel. The nice thing about smoke signals is that they dissipate quickly and you can always send a new one.” She pats my shoulder. “Poor Eadie. Why are you such a disaster?”
She says it jokingly, but I take it seriously. “I blame my sisters.”
She shakes her head. “How you three are related is a mystery of nature.”
I straighten and stare at her. “I’m serious. They messed everything up for me right from the very beginning, in our freshman year.”
“By steamrolling my reputation along with theirs before I even had a chance to establish one myself. I’m awkward and shy under normal circumstances, but they’ve made everything three times harder than it needs to be. Look at me, I’m super analytical of every little thing, I second guess myself constantly, I have no confidence, no real friends, no idea how to send or receive smoke signals. I haven’t even had my first kiss yet.”
“We’re friends,” she says, deliberately avoiding my last point because we both know it’s weird for an almost-eighteen-year-old never to have been kissed, at BDSS anyway, maybe not wherever it is that Amish kids go to school.
“We’re co-workers,” I say. “There’s a difference.”
This sounds like an insult, but Jennifer knows it’s not. She’s cooler than me, older than me, and we never hang out when we’re not at work. I’m just calling it what it is.
She rolls her eyes. “We’re work friends. It still counts as a friendship.”
Is it sad that my co-workers feels like my only friend sometimes? Yes, it’s sad. I’m sad and pathetic.
“Cheer up, Eadie,” she says. “You just got asked out on a date by a cute guy who wasn’t doing it on a dare. So what if it was the wrong guy? It’s an improvement, right?”
I smile grudgingly. “Yeah. It’s an improvement.”
“And don’t concentrate on the fact that you haven’t been kissed yet. But equally… don’t advertise it.”
I throw my towel at her head.
“Teasing,” she laughs, catching it before it hits her in the face.
I move away from the tables. “Well, stop it. I already feel like a freak.”
Jennifer follows me behind the counter. “You only feel that way because you’re comparing yourself to other girls in your grade. Comparisonitis is a fast track to misery. You need to find your own stride, walk to the beat of your own drum. Do you really want to be like the other girls in your class?”
“Yes,” I say, wiping down the frother.
Jen laughs. She thinks I’m joking.
I decide to go with the positive spin on this unexpected turn of events. Maybe a date with Grant will be a boost to my social life. A step closer to the senior year of my dreams… if I don’t mess it up.
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